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No QB yet — and perhaps none at all

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2017 – 9:57 pm

The Cardinals made a big trade to move up in the second round Friday. It gave everyone pause. Quarterback? Deshone Kizer was on the board. But then came safety Budda Baker. No QB there. In the third round, the Cardinals traded down, and still, no QB. Now there is a question of whether there will be one in this draft.

“Those guys aren’t always out there,” coach Bruce Arians said. What about the quarterbacks left on the board? “There are still a couple of quality arms out there,” Arians acknowledged. “Whether they are first-string arms or second-string arms is yet to be seen.”

It’s less than a ringing endorsement for a team looking for a quarterback of the future. But again, this class always was seen with warts, and the last thing the Cardinals have any desire to do is make a pick just because they feel they have to.

“Again, would you love to find one? Absolutely,” GM Steve Keim said. “But as I said, you can’t force a pick and you can’t leave better players on the board, and that would have done if we didn’t take the approach we did. It would be a disservice to the organization and everyone who works here if we were to press something that was out of the norm or to panic.”

The Cards pick eighth in the fourth round Saturday. They have five picks — one in the fourth, two each in the fifth and seventh. We will see if one is a QB.

— The Cardinals really, really wanted Budda Baker. And in the third round, they liked Chad Williams a lot. So it worked out for Keim to make the initial trade, however expensive as it might have seemed, to snare Baker. Because Williams was one of those players that the Cardinals liked probably more than most, they were able to drop down 21 spots in the third, still get him and get back a fourth-round pick.

— Arians believes with the addition of Baker, the Cardinals have one of the most dynamic secondaries in the league. He didn’t rule out drafting a cornerback Saturday — I would be a little surprised if they didn’t — but the addition of Baker gives the Cards flexibility even if there isn’t a ready-to-be-on-an-island corner across from Patrick Peterson.

 


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No DWash thoughts, and the Reddick pick

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2017 – 9:23 pm

Inside linebacker was the theme of the night Thursday. Mostly, it was about first-round pick Haason Reddick. But briefly, and not unexepectedly, since it was the first time Steve Keim and Bruce Arians were available since the news Daryl Washington was conditionally reinstated, they were asked about Washington.

“I’ll be honest with you, for the last 72 hours, I’ve done nothing but stare at college tape and that draft board,” Keim said. “At the appropriate time, we’ll address that. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t put a lot of thought into it.”

Keim added that the Cards would speak to Washington “after the draft.”

— The Cardinals are pretty solid at ILB now, Washington or no, by adding Reddick with Karlos Dansby and Deone Bucannon. Reddick can work behind Dansby and I won’t be surprised to see all three on the field at times.

— No quarterback Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a quarterback Friday, in either the second or third round. DeShone Kizer is still out there, as is Nate Peterman, Davis Webb and Josh Dobbs. We’ll see how it plays out.

— The 49ers made some nice moves Thursday under first-year GM John Lynch, adding a pair of good defenders (DT Solomon Thomas and LB Reuben Foster) while adding some extra picks. Foster was predicted to be a top-10 pick. His shoulder injury may have scared off teams. Bruce Arians said the Cards liked Reddick over Foster because of Reddick’s versatility.

— Reddick’s story is amazing. He had his last two high school seasons end with injury. He walked on at Temple as a cornerback. He didn’t get a scholarship until after his junior year. When Keim talked pre-draft about liking players with the proverbial chip on his shoulder, Reddick fits the bill. “There were some good times and bad times, a lot of hard work that had to be put in,” Reddick said. “It was definitely a journey, but in the end, everything worked out for the best.”


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The draft, prep, luck and David Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2017 – 11:46 am

Steve Keim was asked about the draft being about luck.

“There is always some luck involved,” the Cardinals’ general manager said. “But through preparation you can get a little luckier.”

That’s how the Cards ended up with David Johnson, of course. It’s a story everyone knows well now, thanks to the “All of Nothing” series. The Cardinals were set to draft running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round in 2015. The Lions traded up, one spot in front of the Cardinals, to get Abdullah — who would have been the running back they were looking for.

The Cards were disappointed. But they traded down a couple of spots (to get an extra pick) and went after pass rusher Markus Golden in the second round. That’s where the prep came in — they liked Golden a lot, even though many wondered if Golden could be productive in the NFL as he had at Missouri. Lo and behold, Golden has been, leading the Cardinals in sacks last season. Then the Cardinals went after the next running back on the board, a relative unknown from Northern Iowa who has just happened to turn into one of the best running backs in the league.

The grades were right for the Cardinals. In both cases, some wondered why the Cards took both those guys as early as they did. It worked out — although luck was involved too. It’s a scene that still echoes around the franchise, given the two players who were picked.


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Reinstated, the future of Daryl Washington

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2017 – 5:56 pm

So Daryl Washington has been reinstated. Conditionally.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and frankly, there is only so much that makes sense to do at this point. The Cardinals did not say whether they would be welcoming back the one-time Pro Bowl linebacker who has missed three full seasons. Not yet. Washington was banned from the facility. He hasn’t talked to Bruce Arians or Steve Keim or, most importantly, Michael Bidwill, in a long, long time. At some point — I’m guessing sooner rather than later — that would have to happen for Washington to have any chance of remaining with the Cards.

It’s sticky, of course. However you feel about substance abuse and how it might trouble a person (Washington said when he was first suspended it was marijuana that did him in), his suspension was only supposed to be for a year. He could have come back long before a three-year absence, but he wasn’t doing the things he needed to do to be reinstated. That likely has to be factored in, and the Cards were not happy when this all first happened (“It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position,” Keim said at the time.)

But the Cards haven’t closed the door yet. So we will see how it plays out.

— All that’s been done is the path has been cleared. But Washington still can’t practice or play. He still needs further clearance from the league, whether he’s trying to play for the Cardinals or anyone else.

— I’ll admit, I didn’t think there was a chance DWash would come back, in part because I didn’t think he’d be reinstated. A whiff by me, although it had been three years. I don’t think I was out of bounds with that thinking.

— Kent Somers reported that the assault Washington pleaded guilty to will not lead to another suspension. In fact, Kent reports one of the reasons Washington took so long to be reinstated was in part because of that charge.

— As of now, Washington would be slated to make $2.9 million in salary for 2017 — the salary he was supposed to make in 2014, when his contract “tolled.” (Essentially, it froze.)

— Not sure exactly how his contract would impact the cap right now, but even if it had to be absorbed in the short term, I’m guessing the Cardinals won’t wait too long to figure this out post-draft. As of Tuesday, the NFLPA had the Cards with $15.3 million in salary cap space.


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Foster, Peppers news adds draft factor

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2017 – 12:23 pm

Twice in the last five days has the news come out that a notable player set to be taken in this week’s draft ended up with a “dilute” drug test at the Scouting combine, which for the NFL means it will be treated as a failed test as those players come into the league. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster brought it up himself last week, and then Monday the news broke that Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers had the same thing happen.

Now teams have choices to make (Foster was expected to be a higher pick than Peppers in the first place, although Foster is coming off a shoulder injury too.) It isn’t about why the tests were dilute, although in both cases the explanation is that they were sick and trying to stay hydrated for the combine work. Each NFL team will have to decide, to begin, whether to believe. The bigger issue is that the NFL treats it like a violation of the policy for substances of abuse and will put the players into the league’s program.

It’s not a big deal if the players were indeed loading up on water because they were sick. But these are the things teams must weigh. You don’t want to end up with a player with a high risk of eventually getting suspended because of personal choices. The Cardinals in particular know too well what that is about, with Daryl Washington’s issues.

This is a little less cut-and-dried than, say, the Joe Mixon question and whether to have him on a team’s draft board. Foster and Peppers are going to be picked. It’s another factor in the draft’s risk-reward situation, and why the Cards have worked so hard to collect as much data as they have on each player.


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Pat’s Run and Tillman anniversary

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2017 – 6:58 am

It’s a weird morning for me. For the first time in more than a decade, I am not at ASU, getting ready to take part in Pat’s Run. I did not participate in the first race, but I had run every one since then until today, and that had been the plan (I have a bib and everything). But a trip to spend some time with my brother – which I don’t get to do enough – came up, and sometimes, life happens.

I would’ve liked to be there, especially this year. The race falls on the anniversary of Pat Tillman’s death 13 years ago. I remember that morning – I was still a Cardinals beat writer for the East Valley Tribune – vividly. I was in the kitchen, bathrobe on, toddlers eating breakfast on a Friday when my cell phone rang. A producer I knew a little from a local station was calling to ask if I had heard that Tillman had been killed. I, like everyone, was stunned.

It was the day before the draft – that’s when the draft was still Saturday-Sunday, and the Cardinals would select Larry Fitzgerald with the third overall pick the next morning – but everyone gathered at the Cardinals’ Tempe training facility. It was supposed to be that last day before the draft, when guessing who got picked where was the topic, and instead, the organization was crushed. Former Tillman teammate Pete Kendall was asked to speak to the media, along with Michael Bidwill and Anthony Edwards. Meanwhile, Dennis Green was around but he didn’t look like he knew quite what to do – he was hired after Tillman was long gone; he had no personal connection unlike almost every other non-coach still in the organization.

These are the kind of things that are going through my head every year as Pat’s Run starts. I’m sorry I’m going to miss it.


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Fitzgerald, the 2004 draft and what if

Posted by Darren Urban on April 21, 2017 – 11:02 am

“What if” is a staple of sports. It doesn’t matter if it’s a particular play, game, season or transaction, hindsight is everywhere. ESPN.com played the game recently, posting a “What If” draft moment for each team. For the Cardinals, it was an obvious but solid choice: What if the Cardinals had drafted Adrian Peterson over Levi Brown in 2007. That’s also a game all of us have played over and over, almost since that time.

My “What If” Cardinals draft moment creates a lot more debate, but it’s one that is fascinating to deconstruct. It also gives no clear answer, unlike Peterson/Brown. What if the Cardinals had drafted Ben Roethlisberger instead of Larry Fitzgerald in 2004?

First, the obvious. Fitz is the face of this franchise, and has been for many years. He’s beloved by the fans, and by ownership. He’s been a Hall of Fame football player. There is no angle in which you can say the Cardinals made the wrong decision by selecting Fitzgerald. He helped the Cardinals get to a Super Bowl (and it can be argued he basically carried them there.)

But again, what if?

Dennis Green wanted Fitz. The former coach laid the groundwork for taking the wide receiver anywhere he could, at one point emphasizing how athletic and talented incumbent but inexperienced quarterback Josh McCown was. Remember, this was 2004, a season before the Cardinals brought Kurt Warner in as really the only team in the NFL still willing to give Warner a shot at starting.

When Fitz was taken third overall, Eli Manning was already off the board, but Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were still on the board. I think the Cards would’ve taken Big Ben had they gone QB (but what if it had been Rivers – would the Giants had taken Big Ben, traded him to the Chargers for Eli, and then Roethlisberger was a Charger?)

If Roethlisberger had been a Cardinal instead of Fitz, Warner never comes to Arizona. The Cardinals did have Anquan Boldin coming off his huge rookie season, and he would have remained the Cards’ No. 1 receiver – and with no Fitz, he probably never has contract issues and sticks around. Would Denny still have stalled out as coach with Big Ben? Even if he did, and was fired, would Ken Whisenhunt – who as OC of the Steelers wouldn’t have had Roethlisberger to lead them to a Super Bowl win in 2005 – still be a hot coaching commodity to be hired by the Cardinals?

Would the Cards have found a way to the Super Bowl in 2008, and if they had, would they have seen the Ben-less Steelers? The Cardinals also wouldn’t have drafted Matt Leinart in 2006, and it’s hard to know exactly where Fitzgerald would have ended up in 2004.

What makes the Fitz draft choice so smart in hindsight is that the Cardinals have been able to bring in two veterans in for little – Warner and Carson Palmer – and have them play very well in Arizona. The Cards haven’t turned into the Browns, constantly searching for a quarterback – making a 2004 miss more of a lament.

Still, what if?


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No waiting for 2018 QB class

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2017 – 2:14 pm

There are lots of question marks about the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and lots of enticing names at quarterback that could/should be available in the draft class of 2018. For a team like the Cardinals, who still have Carson Palmer, it’s a question that percolates: Might it be better to spend draft capital in 2017 on immediate non-QB help and plan to go after a quarterback in 2018.

Nope.

“You can look ahead and say there are two or three that we have watched on tape that are fantastic,” General Manager Steve Keim said of the potential 2018 QB class. “But if they are (picked) one, two or three in the draft, and I hope we are not picking anything but (number) 32, how are we going to get up there and get them? Even if we had 11 comp picks, that is not going to get it done.”

Therein lies the biggest problem with any team thinking they can wait. A quality QB is going in the top 5 or top 10. The NFL doesn’t do tanking like the NBA. The sure things in the draft are harder to know than in other sports. So the Cardinals are going to be prepared to draft a QB this year, and actually have a good situation to train one if they do.

Now a) that does not mean the Cardinals will definitely draft a quarterback or b) that they wouldn’t still look at QB next year or even c) that they wouldn’t take a franchise QB talent next year if one were to be there even if they did draft one this year. This is all a year-to-year proposition, folks. Because of that, QB is on the table in 2017, regardless of what better might be there in 2018.

“I just don’t think you can rely on that,” Keim said. “If you have a player you fell in love with, you take them.”


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Schedule coming Thursday — finally, a London date

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2017 – 2:43 pm

Many have asked, and now we know for sure — the NFL is releasing the regular-season schedule on Thursday (April 20) at 5 p.m. Arizona time. Here at azcardinals.com we will have it all covered, from the actual dates to a printable schedule to a very cool video (you’ll have to check it out.)

The opponents are, of course, known. Dates are not. So the biggest news for the Cardinals Thursday will be the reveal of their London game against the Rams. It’s long been known the game was either going to be Oct. 22 or 29 but it has yet to be announced for some reason. It will be out there Thursday, so people can make plans to go across the pond if they so choose.

Bruce Arians has already said the Cardinals plan to fly out on a Monday night to London, so I’m expecting the game before London to be at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cards are also expected to get their bye the weekend after London.


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Meghan Johnson is David’s wife – and critic

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2017 – 9:28 am

There is little question David Johnson is his own harshest critic. As he was setting records a season again, the running back constantly talked about what he didn’t do right or what he needed to improve. To be fair, coach Bruce Arians did the same, but Johnson — with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns — stuck it to himself often.

One example: Johnson noted his biggest weakness. “Mainly get better at pass protection. I definitely missed a lot of blocks … definitely hurt Carson (Palmer), got him sacked or made him rush the throw.”

Apparently, his wife Meghan — who had a role in the Amazon series “All or Nothing” — has “helped” him in that process.

“B.A. is hard on me, my wife is hard on me, everyone is hard on me,” Johnson said with a smile.

How is your wife hard on you?

“She’s always the one telling me I had a fumble, or I missed some catches,” Johnson said. “She’s learning. That’s what happened. She’s learning football, so now she’s able to talk to me about the plays I missed. We talk about it all the time.”

To be fair, Johnson said Meghan does praise him. “She’s my biggest supporter,” he said. “But she knows me. I’m always trying to see what I mess up on and she’ll let me know.”


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